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Benjamin Vilhauer
City College of New York (CUNY)
  1. Persons, Punishment, and Free Will Skepticism.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (2):143-163.
    The purpose of this paper is to provide a justification of punishment which can be endorsed by free will skeptics, and which can also be defended against the "using persons as mere means" objection. Free will skeptics must reject retributivism, that is, the view that punishment is just because criminals deserve to suffer based on their actions. Retributivists often claim that theirs is the only justification on which punishment is constrained by desert, and suppose that non-retributive justifications must therefore endorse (...)
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  2.  56
    ‘Reason’s Sympathy’ and its Foundations in Productive Imagination.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2021 - Kantian Review 26 (3):455–474..
    This paper argues that Kant endorses a distinction between rational and natural sympathy, and it presents an interpretation of rational sympathy as a power of voluntary a posteriori productive imagination. In rational sympathy we draw on the imagination’s voluntary powers to subjectively unify the contents of intuition, in order to imaginatively put ourselves in others’ places, and to associate imagined intuitional contents with the concepts others use to convey their feelings, in such a way that those contents prompt feelings in (...)
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  3. Taking Free Will Skepticism Seriously.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2012 - Philosophical Quarterly 62 (249):833-852.
    An apparently increasing number of philosophers take free will skepticism to pose a serious challenge to some of our practices. This must seem odd to many—why should anyone think that free will skepticism is relevant for our practices, when nobody seems to think that other canonical forms of philosophical skepticism are relevant for our practices? Part of the explanation may be epistemic, but here I focus on a metaethical explanation. Free will skepticism is special because it is compatible with ‘basic (...)
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  4. Free Will and the Asymmetrical Justifiability of Holding Morally Responsible.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2015 - Philosophical Quarterly 65 (261):772-789.
    This paper is about an asymmetry in the justification of praising and blaming behaviour which free will theorists should acknowledge even if they do not follow Wolf and Nelkin in holding that praise and blame have different control conditions. That is, even if praise and blame have the same control condition, we must have stronger reasons for believing that it is satisfied to treat someone as blameworthy than we require to treat someone as praiseworthy. Blaming behaviour which involves serious harm (...)
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  5.  94
    Sages, Sympathy, and Suffering in Kant’s Theory of Friendship.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2021 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 51 (6):452-467.
    Kant’s theory of friendship is crucial in defending his ethics against the longstanding charge of emotional detachment. But his theory of friendship is vulnerable to this charge too: the Kantian sage can appear to reject sympathetic suffering when she cannot help a suffering friend. I argue that Kant is committed to the view that both sages and ordinary people must suffer in sympathy with friends even when they cannot help, because sympathy is necessary to fulfill the imperfect duty to adopt (...)
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  6.  57
    “Reason's Sympathy” and Others' Ends in Kant.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2022 - European Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):96-112.
    Kant’s notion of (what I will call) rational sympathy solves a problem about how we can voluntarily fulfill our imperfect duty to adopt those ends of others which have value only because they have been set by rational agents, ends which I will refer to as merely permissible ends (MPEs). Others’ MPEs are individuated in terms of their own concepts of their MPEs, and we can only adopt their MPEs in terms of their concepts, since to adopt them in terms (...)
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  7. The Scope of Responsibility in Kant's Theory of Free Will.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2010 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18 (1):45-71.
    In this paper, I discuss a problem for Kant's strategy of appealing to the agent qua noumenon to undermine the significance of determinism in his theory of free will. I then propose a solution. The problem is as follows: given determinism, how can some agent qua noumenon be 'the cause of the causality' of the appearances of that agent qua phenomenon without being the cause of the entire empirical causal series? This problem has been identified in the literature (Ralph Walker (...)
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  8. Free Will Skepticism and Personhood as a Desert Base.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2009 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (3):489-511.
    In contemporary free will theory, a significant number of philosophers are once again taking seriously the possibility that human beings do not have free will, and are therefore not morally responsible for their actions. (Free will is understood here as whatever satisfies the control condition of moral responsibility.) Free will theorists commonly assume that giving up the belief that human beings are morally responsible implies giving up all our beliefs about desert. But the consequences of giving up the belief that (...)
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  9. Free Will Skepticism and Personhood as a Desert Base.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2009 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (3):pp. 489-511.
    In contemporary free will theory, a significant number of philosophers are once again taking seriously the possibility that human beings do not have free will, and are therefore not morally responsible for their actions. Free will theorists commonly assume that giving up the belief that human beings are morally responsible implies giving up all our beliefs about desert. But the consequences of giving up the belief that we are morally responsible are not quite this dramatic. Giving up the belief that (...)
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  10. The People Problem.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2013 - In Gregg D. Caruso (ed.), Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lexington Books. pp. 141.
    One reason that many philosophers are reluctant to seriously contemplate the possibility that we lack free will seems to be the view that we must believe we have free will if we are to regard each other as persons in the morally deep sense—the sense that involves deontological notions such as human rights. In the contemporary literature, this view is often informed by P.F. Strawson's view that to treat human beings as having free will is to respond to them with (...)
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  11. An Asymmetrical Approach to Kant's Theory of Freedom.Benjamin Vilhauer - forthcoming - In Dai Heide and Evan Tiffany (ed.), The Idea of Freedom: New Essays on the Interpretation and Significance of Kant's Theory of Freedom.
    Asymmetry theories about free will and moral responsibility are a recent development in the long history of the free will debate. To my knowledge, Kant commentators have not yet explored the possibility of an asymmetrical reconstruction of Kant's theory of freedom, and that will be my goal here. By "free will", I mean the sort of control we would need to be morally responsible for our actions. Kant's term for it is "transcendental freedom", and he refers to the attribution of (...)
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  12. Kantian Remorse with and Without Self-Retribution.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2022 - Kantian Review 27 (3):421-441.
    This is a semifinal draft of a forthcoming paper. Kant’s account of the pain of remorse involves a hybrid justification based on self-retribution, but constrained by forward-looking principles which say that we must channel remorse into improvement, and moderate its pain to avoid damaging our rational agency. Kant’s corpus also offers material for a revisionist but textually-grounded alternative account based on wrongdoers’ sympathy for the pain they cause. This account is based on the value of care, and has forward-looking constraints (...)
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  13.  71
    Free Will Skepticism and Criminals as Ends in Themselves.Benjamin Vilhauer - forthcoming - In Matthew C. Altman (ed.), Palgrave Handbook on the Philosophy of Punishment. New York:
    This chapter offers non-retributive, broadly Kantian justifications of punishment and remorse which can be endorsed by free will skeptics. We lose our grip on some Kantian ideas if we become skeptical about free will, but we can preserve some important ones which can do valuable work for free will skeptics. The justification of punishment presented here has consequentialist features but is deontologically constrained by our duty to avoid using others as mere means. It draws on a modified Rawlsian original position (...)
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  14.  60
    Kant on Remorse, Suicide, and the Descent Into Hell.Benjamin Vilhauer - manuscript
    Kant’s conception of remorse has not received focused discussion in the literature. I argue that he thinks we ought to experience remorse for both retributivist and consequentialist reasons. This account casts helpful light on his ideas of conversion and the descent into the hell of self-cognition. But while he prescribes a heartbreakingly painful experience of remorse, he acknowledges that excess remorse can threaten rational agency through distraction and suicide, and this raises questions about whether actual human beings ought to cultivate (...)
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  15. Kant's Mature Theory of Punishment, and a First Critique Ideal Abolitionist Alternative.Benjamin Vilhauer - forthcoming - In Matthew Altman (ed.), Palgrave Kant Handbook.
    This chapter has two goals. First, I will present an interpretation of Kant’s mature account of punishment, which includes a strong commitment to retributivism. Second, I will sketch a non-retributive, “ideal abolitionist” alternative, which appeals to a version of original position deliberation in which we choose the principles of punishment on the assumption that we are as likely to end up among the punished as we are to end up among those protected by the institution of punishment. This is radical (...)
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  16. Incompatibilism and Ontological Priority in Kant's Theory of Free Will.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2008 - In Pablo Muchnik (ed.), Incompatibilism and Ontological Priority in Kant's Theory of Free Will.
    This paper concerns the role of the transcendental distinction between agents qua phenomena and qua noumena in Kant's theory of free will. It argues (1) that Kant's incompatibilism can be accommodated if one accepts the "ontological" interpretation of this distinction (i.e. the view that agents qua noumena are ontologically prior to agents qua phenomena), and (2) that Kant's incompatibilism cannot be accommodated by the "two-aspect" interpretation, whose defining feature is the rejection of the ontological priority of agents qua noumena. The (...)
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  17.  64
    The Theme of Time in Thoreau's "Cape Cod": The Crisis of the Present Shore.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2008 - The Concord Saunterer 16:33-44.
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